OPINION: It’s time Kern County residents take action to prevent another COVID-19 surge

August 4, 2021 /

The spread of COVID-19 in Kern County is increasing and will likely spread “exponentially,” according to the California Department of Public Health, if we don’t act now.

Kern County Public Health Department confirmed Wednesday 263 more cases of COVID-19 in Kern, and on Monday, public health confirmed nearly 600 cases, marking the highest number of confirmed cases over a span of a few days since the state lifted COVID-19 restrictions in mid-June.

That’s a significant jump in cases from June 30, when health officials confirmed less than 200 cases over a span of three days.

Clearly, Kern’s numbers are going up. The State says Kern County is in the beginning of its third wave of coronavirus infections and will continue to increase throughout the next several months.

“Under the worst-case scenario outlined in the model, the wave will peak in mid-November, with around 230 new cases per day,” The Bakersfield Californian reported. “The figure is short of both the roughly 590-case peak from COVID-19’s first wave in July 2020 and the 916 new daily cases from the peak of the second wave in January of this year.”

So where do we go from here to prevent another surge of cases, another economic shut down, another school closure, and another strain on our hospital system?

Brynn Carrigan, the Director of Kern County Public Health, said two weeks ago at the Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting, “The longer people go without getting vaccinated, the less likely vaccines will remain effective against future mutations of the virus.”

RELATED CONTENT: 99 percent of Kern’s COVID-19 cases in 2021 are amongst unvaccinated residents, health officials say

This means if the virus continues to mutate into new variants, our vaccines will become weaker and weaker.

Over the last two weeks, health officials have confirmed 34 more Delta cases; 15 more Alpha cases; and 8 more Epsilon cases, which are associated with approximately 20 percent increased transmission and has shown to significantly reduce the efficacy of some antibody treatments.

However, there is likely more cases of these variants lingering in Kern County, as not all COVID-19 tests look for variants in test results.

As the number of variants continues to increase in Kern, the need for people to become vaccinated becomes more crucial than ever if we want to get out of the pandemic.

As of Tuesday, only 49 percent of Kern’s eligible population was vaccinated, according to local health officials. This is far less than many other counties across California, including Santa Clara County, where 78 percent of its eligible population is fully vaccinated.

Although Santa Clara County is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases — as is the rest of the state — the County is taking action to prevent another surge.

Not only are Santa Clara residents taking personal responsibility by becoming vaccinated, the County is urging those who are not vaccinated to become vaccinated and announced Monday an indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status.

“Face coverings are one of our most effective tools in this pandemic. Increasing our use of masks is the easiest and best way to protect the health of our community from the Delta variant while still allowing many people to engage in the activities they love,” said Dr. George Han, Deputy Health Officer for the County of Santa Clara. “The vaccines have proven that they can effectively prevent severe illness and death, and they are continuing to do so. However, because the Delta variant is transmitted alarmingly easily, including by people who are vaccinated, we need the added protection of masks back into our lives until everyone is able to be vaccinated, especially children.”

Now, it’s time for Kern County to take action. If people in Kern County wait longer to get vaccinated, COVID-19 vaccines will become less and less effective as a result of more variants, allowing the pandemic to run our lives longer than it needs to.

Let’s prevent what the state model is predicting in this third COVID-19 wave. Let’s prevent another economic shut down, another school closure and another strain on our hospital system. The only way to prevent such devastating events is to become vaccinated against COVID-19.

To find a vaccination location near you, head to KernPublicHealth.com.

Kern Sol News is a youth-led media outlet in Kern County. Their mission is to shed light on the inequities taking place in Kern County and to teach youth in Kern how to tell these stories. Learn more about Kern Sol News at southkernsol.org.